Saturday, March 30, 2013

Marvelous Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony (the story of the work is here) performed by The Dutch Radio Chamber Orchestra:

Where Does He Find That Stuff?

A daily visit: Eclecticity.

Fish Story

A Simple, Village Undertaker tells one.

Sowell on Multiculturalism

The idea that no culture is superior is another fact-free premise. If you look at the actual history of any society, they borrow from other societies. That’s why I believe that isolated societies are almost invariably lagging because they can’t borrow from other people. An example I like to give to challenge the notion that cultures are not superior but simply different is the adoption of Arabic numerals in countries that derived from Rome and had used Roman numerals prior to that. Any mathematician will be able to elaborate on why Arabic numerals are better than Roman numerals. Moreover, Arabic numerals have triumphed all over the world.

Read the rest of Thomas Sowell here.

[HT: Instapundit]

We Call It This, But It's Really That

The bias became a hunch and the hunch became a fact and the fact became a conclusion and the conclusion evolved into a plan which was more of a collection of hunches and the plan's goals were hopes and its deadlines were suggestions. The team was more of a group and often a mob and occasionally warring factions although it was always called a team because the name made everyone feel good.

Until they thought about it.

And the leaders were leaders except when they weren't. Which was frequently.

Quote of the Day

If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.

- C. S. Lewis

Friday, March 29, 2013

Ham It Up

The Pioneer Woman shows how to make Glazed Easter Ham.

Dr. Pepper is involved.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Nicholas Bate on squashing distractions.
The trailer for "The Yellow Handkerchief."
Wally Bock: When you're in over your head.
The trailer for "The Lady From Shanghai."
Novelist Sarah Hoyt on plotters and pantsers.
Jonathan Turley: Did Nixon win Watergate?
The theme song from "Chinatown."
Scientific American: Killing feral cats in Australia.
The Onion: Mississippi bans soft drinks smaller than 20 ounces.
Beirut: Video from 1955.
The trailer for "The Professionals."

Road Stories

Have you ever . . .:

  • Checked into a hotel that was so spooky that you piled furniture and luggage against the door before going to bed?
  • Boarded a standard-sized passenger plane and then discovered that you were the only passenger?
  • Used a hotel conference room where part of the wall had collapsed?
  • Had a long bus ride seated next to a man who had a talking dog act?
  • Watched as a shuttle bus driver prevented a fist fight between some passengers by singing "Happy Birthday?"
  • Opened your luggage and found someone else's address book inside?
I have. What are your road stories?

Quote of the Day

I do not seek, I find.

- Pablo Picasso

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Music Break

Big Mama Thornton with Buddy Guy's Blues Band: "Ball and Chain."

First Paragraph

Simon Boulderstone, coming into Cairo on leave, passed the pyramids at Giza when they were hazed over by mid-day heat. The first time he had seen them, he had been struck with wonder, but now there was no wonder left in the world. His brother, Hugo, had been killed. That very morning, in the dark, early hours, Hugo had bled to death in no-man's-land.

- From The Battle Won and Lost by Olivia Manning

"Red Tourism"

But one thing sets this approach apart from similar campaigns in the past. This time, the idea is for Chinese people to have fun with their political party, to enjoy themselves in the great amusement park of Communism. They're invited to feast on braised pork, Mao's favorite dish, in the leader's birthplace of Shaoshan. They can drink from the well Mao himself supposedly dug in Ruijin or carry fake rifles aboard a rollercoaster at the "Cultural Park of the Eighth Route Army," where they can re-enact the war against Japan. There have even been "National Red Games," including events such as "storming the log house" and a "grenade toss." Party training centers and companies send members to these destinations as part of educational holidays. China saw over half a billion "red tourists" in 2011 alone.

Read the rest of the Spiegel article here

When No Hassle Leads to No Hassle

Preventing a crisis can be a hassle. Standards need to be enforced . . . and that's a hassle. Incompetents need to be turned around or removed . . . and that's a hassle. Plans must be reviewed, assumptions challenged, and facts found. All of those can be huge hassles. That's why people avoid doing what should be done.

But have you noticed how that word disappears when a crisis is at the door?

Quote of the Day

We aren't worried about posterity; we want it to sound good right now.

- Duke Ellington

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Creativity and Music Break

Back by popular demand: The beautiful and intricate "Building the Barn" music from Maurice Jarre's soundtrack to the motion picture "Witness."

Upon His Judgment I Rely

As a public service, Cultural Offering has compiled a list of recommended music for Easter.

Art Break: Kroll

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Abraham Leon Kroll.

Pass the Walnuts

At Entrepreneur: Sharpening memory with brain-healthy foods.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Memorable Gifts

  • Kindness
  • Time
  • Attention
  • Discretion
  • Thought
  • Support
  • Motivation
  • Respect
  • Caring
  • Presence
  • Patience

Quote of the Day

I have often heard sermons designed to make people feel guilty about not keeping the Sabbath, but I have never heard a sermon designed to make people feel guilty about not honoring the six-day work week.

- John Ortberg

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mega-Hot Chili Peppers

The eyes widen and tear. Sweat starts to drip. The subject winces, grimaces and hops. It is said the tongue can be numb for days.    

Read the rest of The Los Angeles Times article here.

Only One Poet

This is the birthday of Robert Frost and - no surprise - it is being celebrated at The Hammock Papers.

Excluding your own poetry, if you had to pick only one poet to read for the rest of your life, who would it be?

Art Break: The Figure in American Art

Underpaintings gives a sneak peek at The Annual Exhibition of The Figure in American Art. The painting above is "At the Warwick Hotel" by Paul G. Oxborough.

Making Exit Interviews Meaningful

I like the idea of exit interviews but their execution is seldom impressive. Asking people about their reasons for resigning and their experience with the organization may elicit no candor whatsoever if the person is worried about references or, in the case of entrepreneurs, gaining future business with the organization.

Who is doing the asking can also raise problems. If it isn't a person who is trusted, then candor is likely to shrink. So too if the interviewer is someone who is just going through the motions. Even a soon-to-be former employee can scent indifference.

Timing is another obstacle. The person who left four months ago may have a better grasp of why he or she departed than will someone who is going through the turmoil of a job change. Distance usually provides perspective.

It can pay to have more than one exit interview: One with an HR person and another with a peer. Have these two interviews before the person leaves, compare notes, and then have the HR person follow-up around four months later with a "Now That You've Had More Time" follow-up interview.

If a good performer turns in a resignation, rather than searching for a farewell gift and waving as a bundle of talent walks out the door, the organization should be meeting with the person to see if anything can be done to persuade the person to stay.

 A person's decision to leave is not a minor decision. It is wise to discover what was behind it and whether something needs to be fixed. A simple questionnaire won't cut it.

Quote of the Day

I am at two with nature.

- Woody Allen

Monday, March 25, 2013

6 in 1

For time-pressed Star Wars fans, Nelson Biagio Jr. has the ultimate video.

From 1965: You Will Smile

Back by popular demand: Bo Diddley. This will get you up and moving.

Limits of Language

Consider the varying degrees of activity that can fall under these words?

  • Advise
  • Consult
  • Coordinate
  • Attend
  • Study
  • Support
  • Manage
  • Tell
  • Care
  • Work
Now consider whether the most intense form of each activity is always the most desirable and think of the words or adverbs that can better describe some of the states in-between. [My guess is that the French language may come closest to providing such precision.]

To what extent does not being able to describe an activity via a simple word affect the activity or one's attitude toward it?

A Different Reality

They took a position which is, in my eyes, so illogical that I stepped back and wondered about their reasoning. When I did so, and saw the assumptions about reality that are the basis for their position, I could understand their views.

I still think they are wrong, but they are not mindless. The good news is that in this case we can get the best of both worlds. That is not always possible.

Phone Wars

At Instapundit: Fighting about smartphones.

Quote of the Day

Habits are like a cable. We weave a strand of it every day and soon it cannot be broken.

- Horace Mann

Saturday, March 23, 2013

To Hide, Perchance to Dream

The Telegraph: London's best secret gardens.

Music for Saturday Night

Eva Cassidy singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

[HT: Suzanne and Fred Stork]

A Special 10 Minute Period for Board or Executive Meetings

Imagine setting a mandatory 10 minutes of silence that could only be broken by someone speaking a truth which everyone knows but, so far, no one has spoken. You all sit there for 10 minutes without uttering a word unless someone speaks.

Now here's the question: Over time, would that practice be a net plus or a net minus?

News You Can Use

A lawyer analyzes Bilbo's contract in "The Hobbit."


Andrew Roberts reviews the new biography of the extraordinary John Wheeler-Bennett. An excerpt:

During his next set of travels, he met Pope Pius XI (who he thought spoke many languages badly), Benito Mussolini (whose heart he pronounced to be “of a lighter shade of black”), and Austrian chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, who was shortly afterwards assassinated by Austrian Nazis. In the Soviet Union in 1935, he met the Czech playwright Karl Radek shortly before Radek’s murder by the NKVD; later on, he met Leon Trotsky only weeks before his assassination in Mexico in 1940, and Jan Masaryk before his probable murder by Communists in Prague in 1948. It seems as though the Grim Reaper was never far behind a request for an interview from John Wheeler-Bennett.

The Wasp Bush

Part of this morning will be devoted to trimming The Wasp Bush in my back yard. The last time I attempted to do so was many months ago, before it was given that name. Some evil wasps, no doubt amused, quickly and painfully convinced me to abandon the project.

I learned a lesson that day: Bees buzz and wasps lurk. There was no indication that a wasp nest was in that bush. It is usually easy to spot where the bees congregate since they are a raucous bunch, much given to announcing how hard they work. I suspect they have water coolers.

The wasps are more like a street gang, being generally good for nothing. We are hoping that a few hard winter days froze the little suckers. My wife has vowed that she has scouted the area and no wasps emerged but that evidence is not conclusive.

Because when it comes to wasps, when they're not there, they're there.

Quote of the Day

Parents are not interested in justice, they are interested in quiet.

- Bill Cosby

Friday, March 22, 2013

Entertainment Break

The trailer for "Phil Spector."

Geek Nirvana

It vibrates and beeps when I get an email, tells the time, acts as a remote trigger for my phone camera, connects to my GPS and shows me maps on my wrist, plays chess, and does all sorts of things.

Read the rest at FutureLawyer.

Peddle While You Work

CoolTools likes the FitDesk X1 and has the details.

From the "Hell Freezes Over" Comeback Tour

Back by popular demand: The Eagles show how to start a concert.

In the Shadow of the General

Roger Kaplan reviews the new book about Charles de Gaulle. An excerpt:

Which, of course, is the irony of the story. For if de Gaulle—a man of the right who fought the political right all his life; a devout Catholic who, more than anyone in his time, fought for the sanctity of the values and institutions of the secular Republic; a social Christian and statist who never gave an inch to what he viewed as the totalitarian tendencies of the left—aimed to calm things down by calling off the ancient civil wars of French history, he was also a man of romance and passion, whose life was described as a medieval geste, and who wrote of France as a country of fairytale legend. And yet, he also called the French a bunch of slippers-wearers. 

[I've long been an admirer of de Gaulle and have a portrait of him in my living room, a decor choice which some may regard as a tad eccentric.]

Good Morning

Coffee. Oatmeal. Fountain pen. Notebook. Corelli in the background. Doves in the yard. Schedule planned. Work to be done. God has given us a day. Good morning.

Booker T. Washington

Anderson Layman's Blog has some memorable quotes from the great Booker T. Washington, a leader who deserves far more attention and fame.

[BTW: You can get his autobiography, Up From Slavery, free on Kindle.]

Quote of the Day

The more you watch, the more mysterious the natural world becomes, and the more you realize how little you know. Along with its beauty, you may also come to experience its fecundity, its wastefulness, aggressiveness, ruthlessness, parasitism, and its violence. These qualities are not well-conveyed in textbooks.

- Michael Crichton

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Get Out Your Checkbook

Underpaintings previews an April art auction. It's an eclectic collection.

Quiet in the Mornings

At Open Culture, a memorable observation by William Faulkner about the best environment for a writer.

Time to Hit the Garage Sales

How to turn $3 into $2.2 million.


Andrew Ferguson writes about the attacks on Thomas Nagel:

Thomas Nagel may be the most famous philosopher in the United States—a bit like being the best power forward in the Lullaby League, but still. His paper “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” was recognized as a classic when it was published in 1974. Today it is a staple of undergraduate philosophy classes. His books range with a light touch over ethics and politics and the philosophy of mind. His papers are admired not only for their philosophical provocations but also for their rare (among modern philosophers) simplicity and stylistic clarity, bordering sometimes on literary grace

In 1685

I wonder what his parents would have said if they'd known that in 2013 we'd be talking about - and enjoying - the genius of their son.

Cultural Offering
has the details.

Richard S. Gallagher: Values and Human Nature

Here's an interview with Richard S. Gallagher, author of The Soul of an Organization and several other books. An excerpt:

Why is there always such a conflict between values and human nature?

Take a value like respecting your employees. If you line up 20 managers and ask them if they respect their employees, they will all say, "Duh, of course." But in many businesses, every time something goes wrong, a new rule or policy gets invented. Enough of these rules and policies, and soon you have an culture that tells employees, "We don't trust you, and we don't particularly like you either." Conversely, a company like, say, USAA develops ingrained values of teamwork by treating their employees well, and then they don't need a thick manual to reinforce that sense of teamwork. And Continental Airlines actually had a ceremony a few years ago where they burned their rule book as part of re-inventing their service culture.

Paging Doctor Holliday

Bob Boze Bell shows a variety of ways to draw the famous gunfighter.

Quote of the Day

Never let a computer know you're in a hurry.

- Unknown

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Music Break

Little Richard: "Send Me Some Lovin'."

Modern Life: Have a Cup of Death Wish

Claimed to be the world's strongest coffee.

[HT: Instapundit]

Afraid to Simplify

While most managers complain about being overloaded with responsibilities, very few are willing to give up any of them. It's one of the great contradictions of organizational life: People are great at starting new things — projects, meetings, initiatives, task forces — but have a much harder time stopping the ones that already exist.

Read the rest of Ron Ashkenas at Harvard Business Review.

When Cake Decorators Go Bad

Cake Wrecks tells an Easter story.

[Added bonus from 2009: How to resign with a cake.]

An Aversion to Curiosity?

Businesses don't feel the joy of discovery; people do.

At Fast Company: Drake Baer on why companies act like they hate curiosity

Art Break: Anglada Camarasa

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Hermenegildo Anglada Camarasa.

Cities: A Fantasy

I sometimes visit cities and wonder if I would be happy living there. The answers range, of course, from No Way to Absolutely.

Pretend that personal and financial circumstances permit you to live comfortably in any city in the world for five years. Which one would you choose?

[Update: So far, no nominations for Barrow, Alaska.]

When Your Hair is Gray

  • You will have seen occasions when the "dumbest" person in the room was right.
  • You will appreciate the power of the incremental.
  • You won't be surprised when nice people are mean and mean people are nice.
  • Graduate degrees will not awe you.
  • You will take time to enjoy - if you are wise - small pleasures.
  • You will look behind the research.
  • The weather will be of more interest. So too will be the flight of the birds.
  • A faint scent may transport you to another time.
  • You will know that the people who declare that they've figured it all out will be among the last to have figured it all out.

Quote of the Day

Speaking with utmost conviction, Shackleton pointed out that no article was of any value when weighed against their ultimate survival, and he exhorted them to be ruthless in ridding themselves of every unnecessary ounce, regardless of its value. After he had spoken, he reached under his parka and took out a gold cigarette case and several gold sovereigns and threw them into the snow at his feet.

- Alfred Lansing

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Prolific Mr. Churchill

At Anderson Layman's Blog: Powerful evidence that I'm way behind with my book writing.

Music Flashback

From 1966: Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels.

Our Man Clive

DG: Someone said that you looked like an extra from Easy Rider during this period. You had a whole rack of paisley cravats.
CJ: Hitchens used to suggest that I got dressed in the dark. I wasn’t dressing badly deliberately. I just had no time. I would purchase the first thing on the rack, to get it over with.2 They were quite tolerant toward me, the lads. The boys.
Read the rest of The New Republic interview with Clive James.

FutureLawyer: News You Can Use

At FutureLawyer, the calculator you've been looking for and how appellate lawyers flirt.

Art Break: Glackens

Art Contrarian looks at the work of William Glackens.

Don't Just Book Meetings

One of the biggest time management mistakes you can make is to turn your calendar into a simple list of meetings. By not listing the important non-meeting work, you relegate such actions to a secondary status. By not having categories to trigger your memory and to assist in setting priorities, you facilitate drift.

There are plenty of great time management systems out there, such as those by David Allen and Franklin-Covey. Here's a very simple one: Review the actions that you plan to take this week. Put them in key categories such as David Maister's Minding, Finding, Grinding or a more detailed list of your own design. [My own system includes Projects, Marketing, Maintenance, Writing, Exercise, Personal, and Comments.]

Have one page per day so you aren't forced to scribble details in a small space. [Fancy pages are not necessary. Print your own forms on your computer if need be and keep them in a notebook.]

Underline the actions that are tied to a major goal. Don't con yourself and pretend that minor actions are significant. Don't get distracted by treating everything the same.

Make sure that you have enough goal-related actions so completing them by the end of the week will have produced serious progress.

Don't just book meetings.

Morning Mail

Aside from the business stuff, there are intriguing financial opportunities in Nigeria and Ivory Coast as well as offers of friendship from young women in various parts of Europe.

Strange. I never got exotic messages until I started blogging.

Quote of the Day

Minute creatures swarm around us . . . objects of potentially endless study and admiration, if we are willing to sweep our vision down from the world lined by the horizon to include the world an arm's length away. A lifetime can be spent in a Magellanic voyage around the trunk of a tree.

- E. O. Wilson

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wizard Crows

Caw: 6 terrifying ways crows are way smarter than you think.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:
And a classic trailer with Alfred Hitchcock introducing "North By Northwest."

The Cyprus Bailout

The shock waves of the Cyprus bailout deal hit financial markets on Monday, as anger spread over a one-time levy on bank deposits on the small island at the fringe of the euro zone. This marks the first time since the start of the European sovereign debt crisis that average savers are being forced to help rescue a country's finances alongside taxpayers, investors and private creditors.

Read the rest of the Spiegel article here.

Music Break: Berlioz

Crank it up: The Rob Roy Overture.